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Cute and loaded

Cute and loaded
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First Published: Sat, Oct 04 2008. 12 15 AM IST

Plain looks: The Ultimate 8502 packs all the goods in a humble package.
Plain looks: The Ultimate 8502 packs all the goods in a humble package.
Updated: Sat, Oct 04 2008. 12 15 AM IST
There are a couple of reasons to thumb your nose at the Ultimate 8502. For one, a company in the United Arab Emirates makes it. The UAE is not exactly the cradle of cutting edge mobile computing. And second, when a product is branded “Ultimate” or any such superlative, you automatically prepare to be underwhelmed.
Plain looks: The Ultimate 8502 packs all the goods in a humble package.
Well, first of all, the manufacturers of the phone, i-mate, may be based in Dubai, but they still have five years and over half-a-million handsets worth of experience in manufacturing high quality Windows Mobile products. And not only that, till 2006, i-mate used to brand and sell products actually manufactured by HTC, which is currently a very popular brand in its own right with products such as the HTC Diamond and the Google Android project.
So these guys know their Windows Mobile phones well enough.
And second, the Ultimate series is meant to be just that. They are top of the line i-mate products chock full of features that are meant to face off with the top competitors from any of the other, more popular brands.
And the Ultimate 8502 is, to put it succinctly, loaded. It comes with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and HSUPA connectivity — that’s 3.5G — and this means you can both download and upload at high speeds. The 2.6-inch QVGA screen may not exactly be top of the range but, like many of the features of the phone, it did its job reasonably well. It was bright, clear and posed no difficulties in browsing the Net or reading text.
One of the stand-out features of the Ultimate 8502 — the more you say it, the more it sounds like a pro wrestler’s finishing move — is the full Qwerty keyboard with smooth pyramidal keys that have a nice, soft click to them when pressed. The keys are adequately roomy, but stubby-fingered users with extreme manicures may fumble a bit. On top of the keyboard are four keys — pick up, hang up, start and ok — and a multi-directional joystick that is set to right of centre. Most phones have the joystick bang in the middle.
While it may seem like a minor eccentricity, this placement of the joystick, combined with the scroll wheel set into the left edge of the phone, made it extremely easy to use for the right-handed reviewer. Lefties beware.
The Ultimate also comes with integrated GPS, a memory expansion slot and a decent 2-megapixel camera.
And all that comes together in a package that a female friend called “cute”. What she really meant was “unthreatening”. After several products that, to the reviewer at least, looked like props from low-budget science-fiction movies, i-mate finally has toned down the design of the 8502 to the level of little distinction. While the phone looks clean and uncomplicated, it will fade to ignominy next to a BlackBerry Bold or the iPhone, both phones that are as “smart”.
And not helping matters is the price point. At Rs35,990, the Ultimate 8502 is asking too much money for a solid, simple phone without any celebrity quotient whatsoever.
Bottom line: If phones were Hollywood leading men, the Ultimate 8502 would be Ed Harris in an independent production.
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First Published: Sat, Oct 04 2008. 12 15 AM IST